Women in Business — Lynn Wooten

Associate professor believes change is on the horizon for women as more organisations offer support

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Lynn Wooten is associate dean of undergraduate programmes and associate professor of strategy, management and organisations at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business in the US, where she studied for her PhD.

Prof Wooten also has an MBA from the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University. Before joining Michigan Ross, she was on the faculty at the University of Florida’s Warrington College of Business.

In her spare time, Prof Wooten collects dolls and works with community service and civic organisations that focus on philanthropy and youth services.

1. Who are your business influences?

Two of them are Carla Harris and Indra Nooyi. Carla Harris is vice-chairman of global wealth management at Morgan Stanley. In addition, she is an accomplished singer with several albums and is committed to sharing her practical advice and career strategies for the next generation of leaders.

Indra Nooyi, chief executive of PepsiCo, is not only an extraordinary leader and strategic thinker, but she is also honest about the juggling act of businesswomen as mothers, daughters and wives. Both Carla and Indra are exemplary renaissance women who leverage their business acumen, identity and life experiences into a holistic leadership persona.

2. What is an average day at work like?

My typical day begins with taking my daughter to school. This is a great time for us to have a deep conversation. I also usually text a message to my son at college.

Once I arrive to work, I focus on creating transformation experiences for Ross undergraduates. This may entail working on curriculum, planning leadership development activities, teaching my undergraduate consulting elective, having lunch with student groups or meeting with campus partners.

In between meetings, I answer emails and work on research projects. On the way home from work, I always call my mother and my evenings consist of family dinners with my husband and children.

3. What are the gender dynamics like at Michigan Ross?

I was raised in a matriarchal family with strong female role models and I went to an all-girls high school. Thus, I had somewhat of a blind spot for gender dynamics until I attended business school. This is when I had the epiphany that women are under-represented in business and many of them do not consider business as a career.

I began to reflect upon how the gender dynamics has resulted in feelings of exclusion for women and the glass ceiling. However, I do believe change is on the horizon as more organisations think about creating cultures that are inclusive and become mindful of the barriers that prevent women from thriving.

4. What is the best piece of advice given to you by a teacher?

All of the great teachers in my life have lived by the philosophy “To whom much is given, much is expected,” and through their teachings, I have learnt the importance of achieving excellence in your endeavours and giving back to your community.

5. What is your favourite business book?

I have many but one that I often re-read is The Art of Engagement: Bridging the Gap between People and the Possibilities by Jim Hauden. It focuses on executing strategy through visual road maps and a culture of engagement and accountability.

Two of my favourite quotes are: “The real lever of success is not capturing the ideas of leaders, but bringing these strategic ideas and issues to life,” and “When leaders try to create a picture of their strategy, they discover that it is impossible to visualise fuzz. Visual iteration forces fuzz into focus.”

6. Which websites and apps would you recommend for businesswomen?

I am always excited about apps that help me organise my life. Two of my favourites are ‘Trello’ for project management and ‘Todoist’ for lists.

One of my favourite websites is the Interaction Associates, which has tools and podcasts about building collaborative and innovative workplaces. I also like to browse McKinsey’s Insights & Publications. It has interesting articles on women in business, such as how to foster women leaders.

7. What are your top tips for networking?

Be an authentic contributor and use your networks for professional and personal development. I belong to several networks including a group of classmates from graduate school and a mother’s organisation. Through them, I have learnt the power of social capital, sharing life experiences and collective resourcefulness.

8. Which three people, living or dead, would you invite to a business meeting?

I would invite Madame CJ Walker, who is thought of as the first female self-made millionaire. She made her fortune by developing and marketing beauty products for African-American women.

In addition, I would have CK Prahalad and Martha Stewart. Mr Prahalad was my professor in graduate school and is known for his research on core competencies and corporate strategy at the bottom of the pyramid. Martha Stewart has an entrepreneurial spirit and I hope we could cook the dinner together and exchange a few recipes.

9. What has been your best business trip?

My best was a recent visit to New York City. It gave me the opportunity to meet with Ross alumni and identify partners for our Women in Finance Initiative, which we created to increase awareness among women about careers in finance and improve access to those careers through specialised curricular experiences.

10. What are your future plans?

To transform undergraduate business education. In the US, business is the most popular field of study. Even when students do not major in the subject, they are likely to take a related course.

Given the demand, I plan to partner with key stakeholders to create curriculum experiences that shape the next generation of leaders to find their purpose and passion, manage with integrity and think with a global mindset. I also want to create more inclusive-learning environments in business schools for women and students from under-resourced backgrounds.

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